Addressing public health issues requires the hard work and commitment of many. At Partners HealthCare, we’re dedicated to working with local non-profit organizations to meet all the health needs of our community. The Massachusetts Public Health Association (MPHA) shares in our commitment to promoting health equity for all, which is why we joined together for their “Active Streets, Healthy Families, and Equitable Communities” event held at the State House recently.
The event centered on the concept of “complete streets,” a national movement that the City of Boston has also undertaken. Complete streets initiatives strive to make streets as safe and accessible to pedestrians, cyclists and public transit users as they are to drivers, among other things. By making streets safer for people to bike and walk, communities can also create new opportunities for residents to embrace a more active lifestyle – thus impacting public health for the better.
During the event, community members spoke about their efforts to support “complete streets,” along with Rebekah Gerwitz of MPHA; Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health; Senator Jason Lewis; Senator Antonio Cabral; and Matt Fishman, Vice President for Partners Community Health.
Representative Antonio Cabral emphasized the key role that community members play in improving public health through initiatives like these. “The hard work is putting legislation and policy into action, which happens at the community level,” he said.
Commissioner Monica Bharel also underscored how complete streets initiatives can get community members involved in public health issues. “Complete streets represent an important ingredient in solving the physical inactivity issues within these communities and across the state,” she said. By helping to ensure that all people in all neighborhoods have access to safe, useable sidewalks, we are improving their health and well-being.
Panelists from Chelsea, Dorchester, Roxbury and Holyoke shared their insights about both the triumphs and challenges that accompany active, complete streets work in their respective communities. While their experiences have varied, all were in agreement about the importance of active, complete streets, particularly as a way to promote health equity throughout the Commonwealth.
“This is a very exciting time for public health and the public health community,” said Senator Lewis. “Health care is undergoing a huge transformation and public health is beginning to take center stage. Complete streets initiatives are examples of that.”